|Reza Jou’s Statement to the Superior Court of California in Los Angeles, California
May 18, 2009
My name is Reza Jou, I am Donna Jou’s father, and I am here to be the voice for my innocent child who is not here to
I am here to plead for your help finding my missing child and
address difficulties I have encountered for the past 23 months.
Donna has been and remains an integral part of my being; her beautiful image at all times is
in my mind.
I was blessed with her presence for short nineteen years. I will never forget the day she was born. I was in the birthing
room, a proud father, seeing his daughter for the first time, her beautiful face with her big bright eyes. Unlike other
newborns, she did not cry; instead, she opened her eyes upon arrival in this wild, unpredictable world and just stared
at me. I fell in love with her that exact moment, such a beautiful day it was, one of my best days ever. She brought
sunshine to my life. I lived and breathed for her, I had so many dreams for her, many already accomplished and the
others yet to be.
Donna is a simple, loving, giving person, an intelligent, artistic, hard working, and ambitious college girl. She trusted
people and made a decision based on her trusting nature. It was a decision made out of naïveté but it was well
I always admired her for her selflessness, kindness, generosity, and big heart. She worked as a volunteer in Battered
Women Shelters and participated in other charitable works she came to love. She wants to be a physician and
promised to be my personal doctor in my old age.
Donna played basketball for Clear Lake High School during academic year 2004-2005.
She was tutoring mathematics during her last two years of high school, donated many hours of her time to help her
Donna worked full time as a volunteer in St. John Hospital's Pathology Laboratories under direction of Dr. Moore,
During her senior year in High School, she took a course named "Independent Study Mentorship (ISM)" Under direction
of her mentor NASA senior scientist/Dr. Deborah Harm, she studied Neurophysiology, Vestibular System, Spaceflight
negative effects on astronauts' balance upon their return to Earth. This was at National Aeronautics and Space
Administration (NASA), Johnson Space Center (JSC), Houston, Texas.
Donna was admitted to the NASA's Summer High School Apprenticeship Research Program or “SHARP” for Summer
Donna graduated form High School in May 2006, GPA 4.4, SAT scores of 1,570 out of 1600.
She went to San Diego State University, planning to satisfy her pre-med requirements in 3 years and to attend Harvard
or Johns Hopkins Medical School. She wants to be a neurosurgeon.
Donna completed her freshman year, was a straight “A” student and made it to the Dean’s List. I was always so proud
of her accomplishments.
I was also very involved in her day-to-day life. We exchanged e-mails regularly and spoke daily; she used to call me
every evening to wish me good night.
My normal, happy life came to an end on June 23, 2007 when my daughter, Donna disappeared. It has been 693 long
and grueling days since I last heard her gentle laugh. She was ripped away from us senselessly, for unknown reasons.
With never a good-bye, all I have to rely on are my wonderful memories of our good times together. She vanished so
violently, torn away from us without a trace.
Her absence is unbearable; I am in constant pain. She was the sun and the sun has now stopped shining. Hardly
anything interests me anymore except finding her and bringing her back home. Only then I will be able to start living
I try to put on the face that others want to see, that hopefully provides them some comfort as they too confront the
same tragedy. Inside me, there is a total void--a void that leaves me unrecognizable to myself. My face that once
smiled readily and often is now stained with tears---a face that looks, waits, and hopes for a miracle.
There is little emotional reserve left in me. My world consists of feelings of loss and loneliness. Every day is as
agonizing as the next if not worse than the one before. The helplessness I feel frequently makes life almost
unbearable. each day I awaken, my will to live seems to weaken, kept alive only by the hope that Donna may still come
back home to us one day.
Donna had her whole life ahead of her. She was abruptly taken away from us. The last family member to see her, my
son waved what was to be the last goodbye to her as my daughter departed with a man who, until that time, she had
never met personally. That man was later identified as John Steven Burgess, a person who my daughter met on
Craigslist and who, we later would learn, had a dark and sinister past as a convicted child molester.
Shortly after Donna’s disappearance, Mr. Burgess fled the area, later to be captured by police across the country in
Jacksonville, Florida, charged with possession of crack cocaine. Arrested at that time, he was subsequently extradited
to California and afterwards sentenced by a California Court to three years in State Prison on charges unrelated to
Throughout his incarceration, from the time of his capture to early March 2009 (for almost 20 months), he had
absolutely refused to say anything about my daughter's whereabouts even though it was clear that he acted
suspiciously in so many ways immediately following Donna's disappearance.
On every occasion provided him until early March 2009, Mr. Burgess has steadfastly refused to reveal what he knows
about Donna's whereabouts. In the meantime, for nearly 2 years now, the family has suffered and continues to suffer
daily without knowing where Donna may be or whether or not she is even still alive. It has been an agonizing,
excruciating experience for us all and each day it seems we suffer more than the last. We live in a constant state of
dark depression not knowing if or when we will ever see our child again.
As Mr. Burgess was due to be released from prison on March 14, 2009, it was critical that the grand jury review the
details surrounding this case and determine whether or not he should be indicted or released back into society as a
The investigative grand jury led to Mr. Burgess’ confession and subsequently, based on his statement, he was charged
on 4 counts consisting of Involuntary Manslaughter, Concealment of Accidental Death and 2 other charges).
Despite his confession, the facts of this case in no way FULLY support the statements given by Mr. Burgess as to what
happened between my daughter and him after the mid night of June 23, 2007.
The fact of the matter is that Mr. Burgess’ confession serves ONLY one person in this case ---- and that is Mr. Burgess
himself. His confession has gained Mr. Burgess the least severe sanction he could possibly have received, a charge
that will keep him in prison for
a minimal time only and that will, once again, provide him license to commit whatever heinous crimes he will choose to
perpetrate upon innocent victims in the future.
This human predator will be looking for his next victim the day he walks out of prison!
What better reason than for him to fabricate a self-serving story that has no basis in fact.
Nothing has been developed in the course of this investigation to back up Mr. Burgess’ story as to what really
happened to my child AFTER the mid night of June 23, 2007.
There are very few known facts in this case. There are no witnesses to address what happened between Donna and
Burgess after midnight on June 23, the date of her disappearance. No DNA evidence has been detected.
In fact, nobody has seen my daughter dead or alive after midnight on June 23, 2007, and a body has yet to be
discovered. The system is using Burgess as the sole source of information and, as such, Burgess, for all practical
purposes, has been enabled by the LAW OF THIS STATE to "pick" the severity of the sanctions allowed, given the
severity of the crimes he would like us to believe he committed. Allowing Burgess the opportunity to "fictionalize" his
crimes in order to minimize his culpability and resulting sanctions is terribly distressing to all of us who love Donna so
dearly and are desperate to find out what really happened to her.
The situation is that, despite any tangible evidence, we are expected to believe whatever Burgess says happened to
my daughter. We are expected to accept his story as if it were based in fact. But where are the facts to support his
story? The answer is that there are none.
As a father, let me pose a question to the court and the investigative team and other legal authorities who have been
involved in this case…..
- Would you, as a father or a mother of a missing child, accept an explanation from a convicted criminal as to what
happened to your loved one, to a daughter of yours who just happened to vanish off the face of the earth?
- Would Burgess’ confession be credible to you and your family?
- Would you quit looking for your daughter if Burgess presented a story to you as he has done to us, if he told you a
similar story about the fate of your loved one?
- Would Burgess' story give you “CLOSURE”?
- Would it give you “PEACE”?
As a responsible father, I tell you today that I can not live with his “CONFESSION” because it is baseless in fact and it
demeans us all and leads us further away from the truth. It is a cruel, cruel joke that Mr. Burgess is playing on us, his
evil laughter falling on deaf ears. Today, I ask the court and the legal authorities involved in this case to continue to
keep this investigation open and active until we discover the truth about what happened to our dearly loved daughter.
Justice is only being PARTIALLY served today, in that we are taking John Steven Burgess off the street where he can
not harm another person, at least for awhile. But our Donna is still out there and she MUST be found.
I, as a devastated father, plead today to this high court and to the respectable authorities to ensure justice for Donna
Jou and our family by continuing their efforts in full force to find our beloved Donna and to bring her back home to us.
My grief, rage, and searching continues. If it takes my entire life to find the truth of my daughter's disappearance, so
be it. I will continue to search for my child until she is found, until my last breath.
To Mr. Burgess,
You took my daughter’s life and tarnished her reputation in death, and permanently scaring my family grieving her
As much as I would like to address you today as a father, which you and I both happen to be, I know my words about
the heartache your actions have caused my family, my telling you of the terrible sadness you have caused will not
resonate with you. You are incapable of being sympathetic or empathetic with another human being and, for that, I can
simply say, one human being to another that makes me sad for you.
If you are unable to feel love yourself, then my telling you how much Donna was loved and how much she is missed will
be of no consequence to you. When I tell you what a grand human being she was, all the things she aspired to in life,
all the good deeds she was doing and planned to do, none of this will mean a thing to you. I know this and it makes
you a very sad human being and it makes me sad for you.
All of your actions are destined to harm others in unspeakable ways.
When I tell you that the only way we have, as a society to control your behaviors toward society, is to incarcerate you
for the rest of your life, that makes you a very sad human being, and I am once again saddened for you.
Mr. Burgess, I suspect your mind, your emotions, your feelings are just as incarcerated and as dead as your body has
and will be. There is an old cliché you must have heard that before "the truth shall set you free". The only freedom you
can ever truly count on in life is to be free in your mind and in your heart and in your soul. Even for you, Mr. Burgess,
as sick a man as you must be, there is a possibility to be free. I hope somehow, someday soon you give yourself the
opportunity to be free in your mind, in your heart and in your soul by telling the truth about what you really did to
I will try my very best to forgive you. I know it will take time but it will come. Of this I am sure. I wish you no ill will today.
I only wish for the WHOLE truth, nothing less than the whole truth. You must tell us the truth, you must tell us what
torture you inflicted on my lovely baby before you killed her. Perhaps some day, you will understand the value of the
truth and you too will finally be set free, not in body necessarily, but certainly in your heart and soul.
Thank you for letting me have the opportunity to address you today.